A sustainable future for laundry

Many businesses across our industry will face a hard road to recovery from COVID-19. Here Jean Anderson talks to industry operators from retail to major manufacturers and shares their thoughts on the routes to a sustainable, environmentally sound future.

We talk to Kyle Grant, CEO and founder of Oxwash , a business founded with sustainability and the environment in mind.

Oxford based Oxwash is a growing business using a fleet of electric cargo bikes and riders to collect items from businesses and homes before washing or cleaning them using the state-of-the-art low-impact Girbau machines at their city centre Lagoon, returning clean items the same way. In their words “All with zero net carbon emissions. A happier planet.” Grant told us: “The environmental angle is the main reason we started with that method and then realised it is actually much, much better in terms of city operations.” They have now opened in Cambridge and plan to open in West London later this year and recruit more staff. Their second phase will be to introduce electric vans, which means they can spread out of city centres to clients such as hotels in the countryside or science parks. Like everyone they have been affected by the pandemic with much of their regular work grinding to a halt.

They have introduced contactless collections and deliveries whereby the customers are provided with a dissolvable red laundry bag, just like the health service use, for collection. “It means that the textiles and clothes we collect don’t touch our team at all.” They have also added an extra box to their bikes so there is a clean and dirty side and increased volume. Grant said: “We have moved very quickly into doing healthcare work. We are doing quite a bit with the NHS now. We are going through the process of adopting all the correct procedures and getting accreditations.”

They are involved in three NHS pilot contracts at the moment. One is with GP practices. One is with hotels that have been requisitioned by the NHS as additional space and finally with Oxford’s vaccine trials scientific team and the support around that. They hope this will stand them in good stead for the future, with healthcare an area they are keen to expand.

Grant said: “You need to be able to prove that you are disinfecting your laundry with the process you use. “But we are very passionate about not using chemistry and high heat so we are having to go through a very, very intense testing process at the moment with scientific lab partners to show that we actually sterilise better in cold water and in other processes such as ozone. Ozone is tricky to use but if you get it right it is really, really good.” Oxwash sees two phases as key to recovery and a sustained future. “The first is cash f low incentives to help businesses get back on their feet post lockdown – we do a lot of work with cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, gyms and things like that. “We are going to be launching a scheme to help defer cash payments for our service for a long time for those small businesses. That is going to be the big thing they are worried about initially.

“The second phase will be moving into new markets that we didn’t really serve before. Healthcare is number one on the list at the moment.” Grant adds: “We’re fortunate in that we have closed an investment round a week before lockdown so we are in a good place to be able to help and move and be adaptive where I think other businesses might struggle because they have lower cash reserves and don’t have the ability to experiment like we do. “It could be incredibly interesting to see what happens in the next six months.” said Grant.

OxWASH use electric bikes to collect and deliver laundry and drycleaning around Oxford city centre

OxWASH’s Oxford process manager Richard Smith

Sapphire, a pioneering solution provided by Girbau, offers added value to businesses in the challenging current situation

Girbau’s marketing manager Monica Cuatrecases sets out their post-COVID strategy: Staying closer than ever to our customers and adding value to their business through sustainability and innovation.

COVID-19 has impacted all business sectors on a global scale, and consequently a new reality filled with uncertainty has emerged. Faced with such an unprecedented situation, the nature and evolution of a future recovery currently seem very hard to predict.

However, one thing appears certain: after the situation improves, it will be extremely difficult to return to normal, to business as usual, at least in the short term. For this reason, Girbau is 100 per cent focused on responding to the current challenges and the future post-COVID scenario. Although there are no magic bullets, the company knows full well that its strategy must focus on staying closer than ever to its customers, suppliers and employees. ‘The day after’ is looking tough, and the laundry industry will not be exempt from this.

Textile disinfection and sanitisation play a key role in the fight against this pandemic and the protection of human health. In this regard, the company is putting all its efforts into foreseeing the needs of its customers, in order to provide solutions that will guarantee the highest standards of hygiene and disinfection, while developing specific solutions and offering new services, such as webinars on the proper way to disinfect garments. Additionally, it is completely focused on adding value to its customers’ businesses by means of comprehensive assistance and counselling.

Innovation and sustainability will be two crucial aspects for the recovery of the sector. Accordingly, Girbau has the innovative wetcleaning system, which, as opposed to drycleaning, ensures complete disinfection, the best hygiene, and excellent results in all garments. Wetcleaning is the only method that can completely remove bacteria and microorganisms, thus ensuring the highest level of hygiene and sanitisation.

Likewise, the short duration of the wetcleaning processes reduces water and energy consumption significantly in comparison to the drycleaning process. Therefore, the wetcleaning system is a sustainable alternative to drycleaning that can reduce water consumption by up to 75 per cent, and it also protects the environment, since it does not use chemical solvents or harmful substances of any kind, such as perchloroethylene, which is used by drycleaning systems.

Sapphire is another pioneering solution provided by Girbau, which offers added value to businesses in the challenging current situation and in future scenarios. It is a smart remote-control software that is revolutionising the laundry management process. This solution, for commercial and self-service laundries, merges the IoT technology with the company’s know-how, in order to boost business profitability. It greatly improves the laundry business management by identifying irregularities and reducing costs and downtimes. Sapphire also plays a key role in disinfection, since it ensures the achievement of the necessary parameters for proper textile sanitisation, storing the data that can be sent to customers.

Another key factor, both now and in the future recovery period, is Girbau’s social commitment. For this reason, the company has set assistance projects in motion, such as providing its solutions to the health sector and vulnerable groups and will continue supporting and contributing to society.

Mick Christian, regional training and demonstration manager for laundry, at Electrolux Professional, gives us his take on a sustainable future.

For large parts of the past decade, sustainability was at the forefront of all involved within the professional textile care industry.

Undoubtedly, the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has sharply refocused the thoughts of many, as professionals and businesses alike have had to cope with circumstances unimaginable only a short time ago.

While lockdown measures and social distancing have proved to be immensely challenging for everyone, the reduction of major sources of pollution, such as travel, has also highlighted the true extent of human activity on our environment. As we look to adapt to living through, and we hope, beyond COVID-19, where possible sustainability should remain a major focus for all within the PTC industry.

From a research and development perspective, sustainability has always been a cornerstone of the Electrolux Professional ethos, both in the physical production of a machine, and throughout its operational life. Electrolux Professional’s latest commercial laundry offerings, the Line 6000 commercial washer and heat pump dryer, have been designed to maximise sustainability while keeping utility and running costs to a minimum. For the Line 6000 washers in particular, innovative features such as integrated savings can provide a tangible reduction in an outlets carbon footprint. Unlike traditional systems, the integrated savings system weighs the load in the machine and then dispenses the correct amount of water to suit the weight of the load. As such, the system is able to intuitively reduce water consumption and energy usage when the machine isn’t full to capacity, which can be a huge plus point for operators. Equally, Electrolux Professional’s Line 6000 heat pump dryers have been designed with the intention of not only cut ting energy usage, but delivering a real impact on a site’s bottom line. The built-in heat pump offers energy savings of up to 60 per cent compared to traditional tumble dryers by removing the exhaust, ventilation and water-cooling systems. Additional savings can also be generated via the moisture balance feature, which measures the exact level of moisture throughout the drying process so that the cycle will automatically stop when garments are dry. Not only does this keep costly energy bills down, but it prevents damage to delicate materials.

Electrolux Professional’s Line 6000 commercial washer is designed to maximise sustainability while keeping running costs to a minimum

A wetcleaning system, such as Electrolux Professional’s lagoon® Advanced Care, is another good example of an innovative laundry system that not only cleans garments to a high quality but also helps businesses cut down on their energy use. Lagoon® Advanced Care offers an environmentally-friendly, solvent-free alternative to drycleaning that uses no toxic chemicals, as water is the solvent. The system can also process a garment at a cooler temperature, and take it from dry to dry in as little as 55 minutes, which is perfect for the high turnaround times synonymous with the PTC industry.

Ultimately, sustainable solutions should be at the forefront of any PTC professional’s mind, not just for the impact an eco-friendly cleaning process has on the environment, but for the knock-on effect it has on profitability too.

Unique insulation wall between prewash and main wash zone from Kannegiesser

Complete batch separation in each compartment is possible with the Kannegiesser PowerTrans

Selwyn Burchhardt , of Kannegiesser UK , discusses the challenges of sustainability.

Kannegiesser has always offered help and advice to their customers to overcome many issues but even more so in today’s world is also an opportunity to be more efficient coming out on the other side of this global pandemic.

Two important words come to mind – hygiene and sustainability. The laundry industry processes work from a wide range of applications. Laundries and textile service providers process linen not only from hotels and restaurants worldwide, but also from millions of hospital beds, uniforms for doctors and nursing staff, as well as providing nursing homes with clean laundry and workwear.

Nevertheless, does clean also mean that bacteria, germs, viruses or fungi will be reliably killed? Hygiene is an extremely important consideration especially in times of viral diseases like COVID-19. What considerations are necessary regarding mechanical parameters, temperature, ratio metric dosing and time for items that need to be washed? Stain removal should not just be efficient. Hygiene requires washing deep into the fibres. It is reassuring to know that you can rely on the Kannegiesser PowerTrans CBW with its technical innovation called ‘ActiveDrop’. The mechanical wash action consists of continuous compression and flow of water through the textiles, instead of simply flowing over the textile surface. However, for a hygienic washing process, in addition to the washing mechanism, other essential factors must be considered, such as the controlled concentration of chemicals and disinfectants throughout the entire process.

Customers will be reviewing the way they process their linen to meet new requirements. It is clear that by using professional industrial processing equipment a higher degree of cleanliness and traceability can be achieved. Washing is followed by rinsing, neutralising, moisture extraction and drying. It would be a failure if the successful disinfection process will be destroyed by recontamination of the linen. A hygienic machine design avoids areas in which dirt and microorganisms can permanently settle.

Furthermore, the machine must be easily accessible for regular cleaning and maintenance. However, as well as hygiene considerations sustainability is going to be a crucial consideration. It is not only a matter trying to reduce the CO2 footprint of all laundry equipment but also extend the life of textiles. Over many decades Kannegiesser has always considered and designed energy saving features into their equipment based on technology available at the time. However, one of the biggest potential savings is extending linen and garment life. Whilst laundries ramp up again you may wish to consider running say a three roll Kannegiesser HPM heating band technology ironer at a lower temperature which will reduce the potential output but will extend the textile life. The same argument can be shared with garment processing in the Kannegiesser tunnel finisher.

Overall Kannegiesser are supporting their worldwide customers by sharing best practice for their existing equipment, utilising features supplied within the machines correctly and offering advice on hygiene and sustainability.

Mike Edwards, managing director of Innovention Consultancy, discusses the effective use of heat and water.

Few of us are lucky enough to run laundries located on windswept islands, adjacent to a fast flowing freshwater river, or where the sun shines 10 hours a day.

With a combination of solar, wind and hydropower, coupled with boreholes, total water recycling or seawater desalination, we would be able to achieve true sustainability, where the essential resources that we need are being constantly replaced.

Back in the real world this is an impossible dream – our best shot at sustainability is to minimise our primary consumption of water and energy and recycle as much as possible for reuse.

I would like to tackle just one aspect that applies to every laundry, drawing on my company’s four-decade developments and applications as they apply to the waste heat and water that is the result of the process of washing. You may find the conclusion surprising.

The lower the washing temperature, the less energy you use, right? Wrong. Imagine that you currently wash in your CBW at 65°C followed by the standard cold rinse. If you measure the temperature of the mixed wastewater, in a plant processing one tonne of linen per hour the result could be 6,000 litres per hour going to drain at 45°C Essentially you have heated six tonnes of water from the incoming main at 10°C, and then thrown away that same six tonnes at a temperature of 45°C. That’s roughly 243kW in one hour.

Now suppose that you decide to increase your budget for chemicals and introduce a ‘low-temperature washing system’. The wash temperature in the CBW now becomes 50°C and the temperature to drain drops to 35°C. That means that you are now throwing away 173kW per hour, around 28 per cent less than before. The final rinse temperature will also have dropped a few degrees, perhaps to around 23 to 25°C so you can expect the normal production clogging drying times for towelling etc.

Now take the Aquatherm approach, go back to low-cost chemistry but increase the wash temperature to 75°C or higher. The wastewater will now exit the machine at a mixed temperature of around 55°C. Incoming cold freshwater at 10°C is then preheated by the energy extracted from the wastewater, and now feeds into the rinse end of the machine at around 45°C, which with the carryover of heat from the wash section will rise to 50°C prior to pressing/extraction and then drying.

Meanwhile the wastewater, having had its energy largely extracted, will go to the final drain at 20°C or under, a net loss of 70 kW or 71 per cent less than the original process. Any plant study into sustainability must focus on what is being sent to waste, be it through hot water or hot air. What you keep in the building does not need to be replaced; this is the Holy Grail of energy reduction. Meanwhile, with all this recycled heat to play with in the CBW, hot rinsing improves quality, reduces process time and makes significant inroads into drying times. It is not unusual to see fully dried category drying times cut from 20 to 15 minutes, with a corresponding reduction in steam or gas consumption.

This is just one aspect of a complex topic, which when combined with water reuse and carefully matched with suitable chemistry highlights a significant opportunity to change the way that we operate in the laundry industry, to the benefit of the environment and the business itself.

Aquatherm is a leading global supplier of laundry water and energy systems

Paul Dilley, director of Fox Energy

Paul Dilley, director of Fox Energy, talks about the part future energy use plays in sustainability and environmental impact.

Fox Energy understand that this is likely to be a very challenging time for your business. The price of oil and gas has plummeted due to the decimated demand and overproduction reaching levels not seen for over a decade – which makes now the prime time to look to secure future energy renewals to take advantage of the current markets to reduce future energy costs.

We are seeing clearer skies, thriving wildlife and cleaner air which has focused a lot of businesses on how they can return to production and still help to maintain these unexpected benef its of the COVID-19 outbreak. What can we take from these challenging times to help to improve the sustainability of the laundry and drycleaning industry and reduce its environmental footprint?

The industry has already taken huge strides with reducing carbon output through such schemes as the Climate Change Agreements (CCA’s) arranged via the TSA and investing in newer more economical and efficient machinery and processes, but there are other options to continue this further.

Green energy produced from 100 per cent renewable sources is now available from dedicated green energy providers such as Ecotricity and Good Energy but also from most other suppliers. Traditionally cleaner, greener energy came at a premium but due to large investment in sustainable renewable output, green energy is now at a cost which is on par to standard brown energy and in many areas of the country, cheaper. Switching to a cleaner energy provider may not mean extra costs to your business and with the government’s target for the UK to be carbon neutral by 2050; it is only natural to assume that they will look to penalise industries that are not doing all they can to achieve these goals and apply additional taxes or fines to business energy bills for those who are running via standard polluting energy generation. It is even possible to now source carbon neutral green gas, again at a cost to your business not dissimilar from a standard product. A big up and coming technology is battery storage; linked to solar panels that charge batteries during the day that are then discharged at times when the sun goes down to power your business, reducing environmental impact and costs.

At Fox Energy we have worked with several companies that have become virtually self-sufficient via this method and some examples of businesses utilising this technology include the Emirates and New White Hart Lane stadiums which charge underground battery storage during the week to discharge and use on match days.

Other technologies include ozone, which is created using electricity and oxygen and then dissolved into the water of your washing machine. Ozone washes are much more environmentally friendly and cost-effective as it can help reduce energy bills as it reduces the amount of hot water needed and the volume of water needed in the process of washing as well, helping to dry laundry quicker. The way ozone works alongside detergent, businesses can reduce the amount of, or even remove the need to use chemicals like bleach, acids, and alkalis. Making little changes that do not affect a business’s running cost and expenditure is surely a win for the industry, but also the world in which we live!

Yes, these technologies require initial financial expense but the payback maybe quicker than you think, not just with financial recompense but also by improving the industries sustainability and environmental footprint.

Stephen Pick, of Sermac Ltd, argues that Böwe and sustainability in drycleaning are old friends.

The major costs of processing a drycleaning load is found in energy for distillation and for heating the drying air, be it steam or electricity, and water for cooling.

The easiest way to save on both is to re-use the drycleaning machine cooling water. The water is clean and warm (up to 40°C) and is ideal for feeding to washing machines, so we’d always recommend investing in a holding tank and pump for this purpose.

If re-using the water is not practical the next best option is to re-circulate it and if this is done it is important the water is cooled. Böwe can provide a heat-pump based chiller which can economically remove heat from the cooling water before returning it for re-use. Water consumption with this system is zero.

At the heart of the machine is the drying system. The current Böwe PremiumLine machines use an air-duct developed with the aid of a German aeronautics institute. It is designed to promote smooth air-flow to allow the huge volumes of air to move easily and quietly. More air means better/quicker drying and less energy and water required. Of course, the fan, air heater and heat-pump (fridge) system must also be appropriately sized and this is always the case with a Böwe.

But even the best drying system will waste energy if allowed to continue drying when the garments are already dry. It is for this reason that all the current Böwe machines use a volumetric drying control. This device provides an accurate way to measure the relatively low flow of solvent being recovered towards the end of the drying process.

Accurate drying saves energy, water and time. Also remember garments which are not properly dry when they exit the machine continue to dry on the hanger releasing solvent into the atmosphere causing pollution. As already said, unnecessary drying wastes energy and an example of this is lint stuck inside the cage housing which will require drying during each and every cycle. For many years now the cage housing backplate on a Böwe machine has had a non-stick cataphoresic coating applied. The purpose of this coating is to prevent lint build up.

In 2020 Böwe PremiumLine machines have extended the use of these coatings to include the air-duct and fan housing while the PremiumLine ‘Black Forest Edition’ adds even more coverage including the button trap, another area where a lint build-up would need drying every cycle. Böwe have also designed several features to prevent excessive and inefficient distillation.

More efficient distillation means less energy and water usage and purer solvent. In these days when we are reminded of our vulnerability to infection I would also mention that Böwe have developed a sterilising drycleaning process using a combination of UVA radiation, ozone and a biocide. The process can effectively sterilise at room temperature.

While in the UK perc remains the most popular solvent but, if it were to go, all the Böwe machines we have delivered in the last few years are capable of conversion to MultiSolvent® specification. Some of the newer alternative solvents are delivering very good results in general drycleaning and are definitely worthy of consideration.

For Böwe sustainability is not something we add as an afterthought. It is designed in at the core of each and every one of our machines reducing energy, water and solvent consumption daily for our customers.

The Böwe aerodynamic airduct was designed to promote smooth air-flow to allow the huge volumes of air to move easily and quietly

The Böwe aerodynamic airduct was designed to promote smooth air-flow to allow the huge volumes of air to move easily and quietly

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